The end of the year is an opportunity to do wristwatch shopping at a bargain price. I decided to take advantage of the December sales and bought several watches this month. One of them was the watch of the brand, which I associate with the combination of San Marino and Rick Martin – Chinese San Martin, a brand whose watches I have watched for a long time, but something caused that I never decided to buy. This time the price was so bargain that I stated that I want to see this watch live, if I don’t like it, I can always sell it with a possible small loss – those interested should be found. Another watch was Aquatico Blue Angels, a microbrand that has recently become one of my favorites, ahead of Zelos, whose new designs have disappointed me terribly and in which I don’t see any model for myself.

Both watches are one of the cheapest watches on the market of the pilot type with an automatic movement and sapphire glass. San Martin costs $ 150 and Aquatico in the December promotion cost $ 159; prices are therefore comparable (currently Aquatico can be bought for $ 179 with the KMZIZ code). Having both watches at home, I decided to make a comparison to see which watch offers more in this budget. In comparison, a watch can get 1 point if it’s better in a given parameter than the other one or if there is a tie both watches receive 1 point each. The comparison is subjective and everyone could issue a different verdict, although I have tried very hard to assess only quality.
Of course, I decided to share the comparison with you and you can read them below, which I encourage 🙂

Box / set

The San Martin box is a small plastic case, filled with a sponge inside. Together with the watch we get a tool to change the straps (very good quality), a small screwdriver and 2 additional nato straps. The whole set can make an impression, but NATO straps of this quality can be bought at aliexpres for less than 3$, and the plastic case that is branded with an ordinary, crooked sticker doesn’t tickle my aesthetic senses.

We receive Aquatico in a square box made of thick, nicely finished cardboard box which is lined with fleece inside. The same box came with the Super Charger model, so Aquatico simply changed the boxes in which it has supplied the watches since the Bronze Sea Star review and they are now of better quality for all watches. I like this box much more than San Martin, which seems to be just tacky, but San Martin makes up for it with a larger set and basically a tool for changing straps that made a positive impression on me.

In short, Aquatico has a better box and the San Martin set comes with the watch so I think there is a draw in this field.
Aquatico 1 – San Martin 1

Design

Because what you like is a matter of taste, I will not judge the design in itself, just how much a given watch gives itself, and how much is simply an inspiration taken from another watch, a more famous brand. In both cases, recognizing what a given manufacturer has modeled is not a problem.

San Martin is very much inspired by Damasko DA36.

The layout of the indices on the dial is the same, we also have a white cross, the same hands, only the font on the indices is different and San Martin doesn’t have a date stamp, but this is due to the limitation of the movement used rather than their willingness to distinguish.
The shape of the case and lugs is very similar, the width between the lugs in both cases is 20mm. The case finish is different – in Damasco it is sandblasted in satin and San Martin is completely brushed.
The crown is almost identical, the biggest difference when it comes to the case is the crown cover – it is in Damasko and it’s not in San Martin. And the size – Damasko is 1mm wider and 0.3mm taller than San Martin.

Aquatico is based on Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic.
The layout on the dial is very similar, although you can see the difference, especially for minute indices. The hourly index font is very similar. The hands are completely different, both watches have a date stamp at 3 o’clock.
The case is completely different, has a different shape, a different bezel, the lugs in Aquatico are narrower and longer. Hamilton has an case 2mm wider (40mm Aqutico a 42mm Hamilton) but it’s 1mm thinner (11mm Aquatico, 10mm Hamilton). The distance between lugs is the same – 22mm, but due to the difference in size in the case, it looks completely different in both watches. The crowns are completely different, both watches do not have a crown cover.

Aquatico gets points in this category because, although evident inspiration is evident, this is not a typical attempt to copy the design we can talk about in San Martin’s case.
So Aquatico 2 – San Martin 1.

Case

Although I was very tempted to buy an Aquatico with a black PVD case, for comparison I decided to let go of the coating and order the pure steel version. San Martin, unfortunately, does not have the option to buy a watch with PVD, but other versions of the dial are available.

San Martin
The whole brushed case is 39mm wide. It’s a nice size, given that trends are slowly beginning to move towards smaller watches. The small problem with this watch is its thickness – 12mm, which due to the construction of the case (straight walls) is very visible and which, together with the wide bezel, optically reducing the watch, makes it look small, but bloated. With this case design, the watch would look better if it was 1 or 2 mm wider. The lugs are long, the length of the watch and the lugs is 49mm, but they are strongly bent so you can’t see that length. The lugs on this watch surprised me with their sharpness; yes, the tips of the lugs are very sharp, so sharp that they prick the finger when touched. Fortunately, they don’t prick my wrist when I have this watch in my hand. Because after placing the watch on the table, the case rests on the lugs and not on the case back. Probably over time, pointed lugs will be ground and will not be as sharp as today.

Despite its small size, the watch sits badly on my hand … it goes up the wrist by itself and sits there in such a way that the lugs protrude beyond the wrist. The lugs have a 20mm pitch – this is standard, safe for the case in this size.
The crown is not signed, it is screwed because the watch has a water resistant level of 200m. It’s hard for me to say why the pilot type watch has a wr of 200m, no one will dive with it at great depths, and the necessity of unscrewing and screwing down the crown each time when setting is some inconvenience. Although not large minus, but in this watch this is completely unnecessary.

Aquatico
has a case with a width of 40mm, this is the optimal size for me in EDC or field watch style. The bezel in this watch is narrow, thanks to which the dial is larger and the watch itself also looks a bit larger. Especially that it has very long lugs, probably the longest I’ve ever seen in a watch. The watch with a 40mm case has 52mm lengths together with the lugs, which means that on each side the lugs protrude 6mm from the case! Yes, they are long … fortunately properly bent, so they don’t stick out of the wrist and should not stand out even on smaller than mine. The case height is 11mm – a very good result for a watch with a Seiko automatic movement.

The crown is nicely made, signed and the shape fits the entire watch. A nice procedure is to use 22mm wide lugs spacing in this watch, because due to the narrow bezel and narrow lugs, it makes the attention of the person looking at the watch focus on the dial that forms one line with the strap. When we look at the top, the case seems invisible; is like an addition to the dial.
The Aquatico case has also been completely brushed.

The cases of both watches on paper are very similar, but in practice brushing in Aquatico is a bit softer and therefore gives the impression of better quality. Small differences in all the dimensions of the case translate into a huge difference when it comes to the whole watch. Aquatico is slimmer, has better proportions, fits better on my hand, its case has its own character and unusual solutions, such as very long lugs and their wide spacing. You can also see the attention to detail that someone who designed the watch just made sure. In my opinion, the case in San Martin is ill-considered; its design and thickness would match a watch with a larger diameter and look like it was copied from a watch with completely different proportions, on the principle that it worked here also “somehow it will be”.

Another point for Aquatico.

Aquatico 3 – San Martin 1

Dial

San Martin is a typical watch in the pilot style so it has a black, readable dial equipped with hour indices, with markings in the form of Arabic numerals and a triangle at 12 o’clock. The black on the dial is matte and as if faded, it’s not a vivid, juicy color. All indices are of the same color – they have a greenish shade, which can be seen especially when the watch is in artificial lighting, the color of the indices is probably dictated by the fact that they are made of luminescent mass in green. In the center of the dial there is a cross of thin, white lines, all the dial elements are made correctly, there are no deficiencies, index curves, etc., but also because of the type of the dial, it could not be screw up too much.

The hour and minute hands are black, have the shape of swords and are filled with a greenish luma in the middle, the luma shade on the hands is slightly different than the one on the indices, more yellowish or just lighter green. The hands have the right length – the minute hand reaches half of the minute indices, and the hour hand is a lot shorter, but maintains a good proportion on the dial. The second hand is a thin yellow pointer tapering towards the end.

The hands are a typical classic of the genre, the shape of the hands has most pilot watches that we can find on the market. These San Martin look very good, I like when the hands are not silver and have a color, especially matte, here the hands are black but unfortunately you can hardly see it because the borders completely blend with the also black dial.

From above, the watch covers sapphire glass with an internal, colorless anti-reflection. In this budget, such glass is not available in the case of an automatic Swiss or German watch, but if we are talking about watches from china, this is the standard.

Aquatico, of course, is more associated with a field watch than a pilot watch. A little more is happening on the dial, but it is still very readable. The dial is juicy black, has a sunburst effect and is divided into several planes … The most outside is the chapter ring with minute indices in the form of white lines and orange numbers every 5 minutes. Closer to the center is the plane slightly sloping from the center to the outside and having circular grooves, thanks to which the dial reflects the light in a completely different way, becomes brighter and sometimes more graphite than black. In this plane there are also main hourly indices 1-12 in the form of large Arabic numerals painted on the dial with a green luminescent mass.

The innermost plane is flat and has small white Arabic numerals on the edges that perform the function of hourly indices 13-24. At the bottom of the dial is the orange automatic inscription, which harmonizes with the minute indices and the end of the second hand, and adds an additional flavor to the entire dial.

At 3 o’clock, between the inside and the grooved part of the dial there is a date window, which is a simple notch in the dial and they are black numbers on a white background. It is a pity, if they were white numbers on a black background, the date stamp would be almost invisible and would look like those smaller, white indices from a distance.


The hands are silver, the minute and hour hands are large and massive, inside filled with green luminescent mass. The second has the shape of an arrow with an orange tip which is filled with green luminescent mass inside.

This watch is also closed with sapphire glass but probably has no anti-reflective coating or it has, but weak, because the glass is not perfectly transparent and the reflections are stronger than in the case of San Martin.

In both watches, luma is very good and comparable, after exposure it shines very brightly, to slowly weaken to a level where it is barely visible but still goes to read from them an hour in the dark. Of course, compared to tritium, they fall very poorly. But after an hour from exposure, all luma watches fall very poorly compared to tritium.
After exposure


10 minutes later

After approx. 1.5 hours (comparison with Aquatico Super Charger with tritium)

The Aquatico dial is much more interesting to me, gives the impression of a much better quality, the dial in San Martin is only correct. The green indices in Aquatico fit much more than in San Martin due to the fact that the dial under the influence of light gets brighter, graphite … and graphite goes great with greenery. The downside of Aquatico is a reckless date and no anti-reflection, and only for this reason, although my heart disagrees, in the dial category I grant a draw.

Aquatico 4 – San Martin 2

Movement

Both watches are equipped with the same Seiko automatic movement – NH35. In both cases, the movements are very accurate and work with an accuracy of +1 and +3 s / day. The difference is so small that it can result from different usage on given days so here is just a draw. By the way, both watches are more accurate than most Swiss watches I have had. In the case of Aquatico, this is my 3 of their watch with this movement, which goes so accurate, so I slowly begin to believe that this is not the coincidence and they are regulated in the factory from which they come out.

Aquatico 5 – San Martin 3

Case back

The case back in San Martin is full, screwed in and has no markings. I don’t intend to leave this watch for longer, so I didn’t take the film off it because there would be nothing to show …


Aquatico has a see thru case back with a printed illustration of the airplane and printed information about the watch. I don’t like see thru case back with illustrations, but it certainly looks and is more original than a full case back without anything.


The verdict is obvious – a point for Aquatico.

Aquatico 6 – San Martin 3

Strap

San Martin comes with three straps – one leather and two NATO straps. Kind of cool, but all 3 straps are of poor quality … leather is thick, stiff and maybe smells like leather. Reminds the straps with which cheap watches from Aliexpress come  made of so-called Chinese dragon leather. The buckle is fragile and it’s difficult to aim at the hole because it is loose and moves sideways. It was probably because of this strap that my watch was worn so badly and uncomfortably.

Both nato straps are also stiff and thick, I used to wear watches on such straps and I know that it’s also uncomfortable and it would add a few millimeters to the already thick case, so I didn’t even put them on.
In short, to comfortably wear this watch I would have to buy some decent, soft leather strap.

The strap with which Aquatico came is a completely different story … it was made in vintage style and used to make it special, cracked skin to give it an even better vibes. This strap is very good quality – soft, fragrant and comfortable. It is shorter, it’s perfect for my wrist, so I have no problem standing on the other side. The buckle is thick and solidly made, it’s signed by Aquatico logo. This strap alone is worth more than even 10 straps that are included with San Martin.

It’s better to have one pair of comfortable, decent shoes than 3 pairs of uncomfortable and poor quality. A point for Aquatico.

Aquatico 7 – San Martin 3

Summary

Of these two watches Aquatico definitely fell to my liking.

San Martin is not associated with microbrand at all, but more with Chinese mass products available on Aliexpress like Parnis – it is a decently made watch for decent money where we pay exactly for what we get, but there is nothing to expect original ideas or unusual solutions , no one has ever thought about this project or worked to make it coherent and refined. I also know what kept pushing me away from these watches all the time when I watched them on the internet – they have too little input in design and far too much quality from what they copy and this makes these watches become a caricature of the original.

The Aquatico watch, on the other hand, shows all the features of a typical microbrand – very good value for money and a well thought-out design which, which often happens in the case of microbrands strongly drawing on more well-known brands – improves the original. And this is also the case here. I recently had in my possession a Hamilton Khaki Field and a version of this watch from Aquatico, because of the less built-up, slimmer case and greenish indexes, I like it even more.

Konrad

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